I've been surprised recently. Everyone knows about Google right? I think it's the best general–purpose search engine out there and use it all the time. I've been surprised because Google Groups seems to be something of a secret amongst people I know. I sometimes wonder if that's to do with Usenet being the older and less glamourous relative of the World Wide Web or maybe it's just because most people never got as far as exploring the mysterious newsgroups features of programs such as Outlook Express. I have to confess that I was using e–mail for quite a while before I investigated what this old–fangled newsgroups thing was all about. I'm glad that I did because it's helped my programming tremendously and also provided some laughs along the way.
Having access to the entire Usenet archive is great because it's like having an expert permanently to hand. If I hit a programming brick wall I can usually feel pretty confident that the answer's out there somewhere and that I can find it. Very few problems are unique. The other side of the equation is that it's a great place to offer help to others when feeling altruistic.
I find Google Groups to be such a useful resource that I've set up links on my Internet Explorer Links toolbar for predefined advanced searches: